Engineers need Jesus, too!

Downtown LA

Cindy is reaching the unreached. She’s not overseas teaching English, translating the Bible, or feeding the poor and homeless. She is here, being a light in the darkness for the people in her workplace who might not otherwise experience the good news of the Gospel.

Studying to become a Chemical Engineer in college was dreadful. After graduation, I blindly applied to every single open position.  As God provided a job for me, I immediately prayed that He would grow my ministry at work and that people at work would come to know Him through me.  However, I quickly forgot about my desires for ministry at work after I began the job. I got caught up in my workload, politics and “office space” frustrations. I struggled with thinking that I need to move out of engineering and seek a different career path.

During my second year of work, I started to work in a supporting role for operations. Since my coworkers and I spent days and nights together, in danger and in boredom, in laughter and in anger, we truly felt like a family. God blessed me tremendously with great relationships, and my heart started to grow for the people around me.  God convicted me to begin to pray and care for them.  I started to share intentionally about my struggles in life and my belief in God. As I prayed more fervently, deeper conversations about life, attitudes and beliefs occurred more frequently.

I used to complain about the lack of Christians at work because I felt that no one at work could relate or share my burdens. But I realized that God intentionally placed me there for that very reason. I then started sharing with my Christian community about my coworkers so that they could together pray and share my burden for them.

With various job positions over the last nine years, I encountered many who don’t know Him. I built relationships with people of different cultures and backgrounds, people who are incredibly intelligent, and people who I never would have talked to if I saw them on the street. Although none of my coworkers have come to faith (yet), I feel privileged to be part of their journey, and I celebrate the steps that they have taken in being more open to God and Christianity (see Engel Scale developed by James F. Engel).

As I think about going to the inner cities to love the poor, going overseas on missions, or volunteering at hospice to help the hopeless, I see that God has prepared me and placed me in a mission field all along.  I am in the lives of those who are poor in spirit; I am in the lives of those who are broken hearted; I am in a harvest. I love my workplace because God’s heart is there, too.

Cindy

Photo by Nathan Chang

 

Working with God

Some of the Knysna and Cape Town teams went to pray at parliament.

Just over six years ago, Milton left campus ministry for the marketplace. Even though he knew theologically that every Christian is called to work and business, God still had a lot to teach him.

This past November I had the privilege of traveling to South Africa to serve as a Kingdom business consultant with Rep. Rep (short for Repurposing Business) trains and consults business leaders and entrepreneurs in aligning their businesses with biblical principles so that societies are transformed and impacted for the Kingdom. I had just finished Rep training earlier that year, and I wanted an opportunity to put my training into practice. I spent two weeks consulting local businesses: facilitating discussions on core business practices, identifying areas where Kingdom impact could be increased and laying out actionable strategies to turn those opportunities into reality.

What Did I See and Learn

Business is Spiritual – While I’ve known this to be cognitively true for a long time, I experienced this truth while in Knysna. Consider the context: Knysna is a struggling resort town, beautiful but lacking any real industry (outside of tourism), losing a business a week, and 90% of the people live at or below the poverty line. The potential of small and mid-sized businesses to bring “good news to the poor” – to have a job to live out your God-given calling – is huge! The enemy comes to steal, kill, and destroy, and Satan attacked in the midst of this strategic development opportunity. Four days into the venture, our hosts’ parents were brutally murdered. We could have cancelled the rest of the venture, but we chose to press forward instead. Interpret the events how you will, but I saw that this venture was essential to furthering God’s Kingdom and Satan was threatened by that. What I knew in my head became much more real — business is spiritual [warfare] and one of the primary ways God redeems and restores His creation.

Note: One of my teammates wrote a more in-depth account of what happened. Also feel free to browse our team’s blog of the trip.

Business is a platform – One of the greatest deceptions Satan has ever pulled over the church is that work is only a platform – it is only a context to share the gospel and fund true “ministry.” On the contrary, I saw how valuable business is as a setting for Christians to be formed more deeply and completely into the image of Christ. It amazed me to see nominal Christians and even people who were angry with God become transformed and excited about God AND business once they understood:

  • Work is a calling to serve God.
  • There is an abundance of Scripture on work, its relevance, theological significance and practical wisdom for business.
  • Business is a key vehicle God uses to “fill and subdue the earth” and to “seek and save the lost.”

Rep comes into a community seeking to repurpose businesses, but the dirty secret of Rep is that you can’t really repurpose a business without repurposing the leader. In the end, Rep is a discipleship catalyst, helping business leaders see where their work fits into God’s Kingdom and giving them practical action steps to live out their priestly calling. I saw how work and business is often the optimal context for discipleship since it usually does a better job of holistically aligning gifts, calling and experience, instead of trying to pigeonhole individuals into limited service roles inside the traditional church.

One example of this was a real estate couple from Sotheby’s Knysna. Prior to the venture, they were getting ready to leave the business to work on a farm where operations were much more predictable. They couldn’t see the value of their work in God’s Kingdom. But after going through the program, they saw their work as ministry. Specifically, they were excited to learn that theirs is a ministry of hospitality and connection. Providing much more than transactional house-buying services, they can actually care for people by facilitating the community and network development crucial to making a house into a home.

What Next?

The Rep training and subsequent trip to South Africa have been valuable experiences in living out the integrated spiritual life. One of my biggest takeaways is to pray regularly and consistently for daily breakthroughs and miracles in the workplace. In the day-to-day, it’s easy to forget the spiritual nature of work and our dependence on God for favor, success, and transformation. More than the training content, I was blessed and challenged by the culture of dependent and expectant prayer on the trip. I was surrounded by fellow brothers and sisters who modeled and encouraged me in that dependence; they not only understand that work is spiritual, but they also endeavor to prayerfully live out their callings.

Work matters to God. He started it all in Genesis 1 before the Fall, and He grants us the privilege of partnering with Him in His work. Work does not exist just to evangelize to coworkers or to make money so we can support those who do the real ministry. Work is ministry (the Hebrew word for work and worship are actually the same). May we remember our God as we participate in His work to serve our neighbors and create beauty in the world around us.

For more on this topic, I recommend the Rep training and Tim Keller’s Every Good Endeavor.

Milton

Photo by Lyn Johnson

What Do You Want?

Suphanburi Thailand Night Market

Brian grew up in the church and could tell you all the right answers. But when confronted with another’s faith that was bigger than his own, he was challenged to walk his talk. 

In summer of 2009 our OMF International Serve Asia team was prayer walking downtown Suphanburi, Thailand with a young guy named Mean.  As prayers and conversation began to die down I asked Mean, “How can I pray for you?”  Mean paused for a couple moments and then said, “Yes, brotha… Pray that God would use me to help make Suphanburi the first Christian city in Thailand.”  I nearly stopped cold in my tracks.  Having grown up in the church, I had heard many stories of amazing men and women being used by God, but for whatever reason this particular moment was different. Mean’s faith. Mean’s vision. Mean’s conviction and zeal hit me like a ton a bricks.

I honestly did not know exactly how to pray for that.  I’d heard dozens of people pray for big things in my life, but their prayers seemed kind of distant and nice-to-have… someday.  Not Mean.  The moment he began to speak I knew exactly what he wanted.

Later that evening, I came across a piece of scripture that hit me in a fresh new way.

“The next day John was there again with two of his disciples.  When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God!”  When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus.  Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, “What do you want?”  John 1:35-38

I felt the Lord asking, Brian, what do you want?  What is it that you want most in life?  Because before you can follow me, I need you to not just think but articulate in words what it is that you want. And then how did the disciples respond? “Rabbi, where are you staying?”  We want to be with you.  What we want most is to be in your presence.  We want you.  That’s what we want.

The disciples wanted Jesus. Mean wanted his entire city to know Jesus. But in that moment, I could list a multitude of things I wanted other than Jesus. I began to ask myself, in my heart of hearts, if Jesus is what I truly want most, what does that mean?  What decisions do I need to make?  What changes need to happen?  What do I need to let go?  What do I need to pursue?

A few years later, God led me to serve as a youth pastor at Menlo Park Presbyterian Church where I got to take the lessons I learned from Mean and so many other faithful brothers and sisters and impart them to kids and families. God gave me the space and opportunity to challenge our youth and ask, “What do you really want?”.

I have just moved to CO to serve as OMF International’s Follow-Up Coordinator where I will get to walk with people who have had incredible experiences on the field – meeting, interacting, and serving alongside of folks just like Mean.

To partner with Brian prayerfully or financially, please visit www.omf.org/us/partner.

Brian

Photo by Brian Lee